Introducing Cisco Catalyst Multigigabit Technology to Future-Proof Your Network for 802.11ac Wave 2

January 20, 2015 - 12 Comments

As more and more users and devices are connecting to the network via WiFi, Cisco has been focused on creating the best wired network to enable mission critical wireless:

  • In 2013, we introduced Catalyst 3850 & 3650 Stackable Converged Access Switches for wired & wireless networks. These switches simplified networks by combining separate wired and wireless networks into a single platform. This simplification makes IT agile. These switches also enabled a better user experience through deeper application visibility across wired and wireless with Cisco Flexible NetFlow. Click here to see an interactive demo showing the other benefits of our converged access switches.
  • In 2014, we expanded the converged access portfolio by introducing Converged Access on Catalyst 4500E, our lead modular access platform.
  • Today, we take the next big step in our wireless strategy by introducing Cisco Catalyst Multigigabit technology across several campus switches: Catalyst 4500E, 3850 and 3560-CX.

So, what problem does Cisco Catalyst Multigigabit technology solve?

Gigabit WiFi Access Points continues to pick up steam, with 802.11ac Access Point (AP) penetration up almost 10-fold last year[1]. As the industry anticipates the shipment of 802.11ac Wave 2 APs and the future 802.11ax, enterprises are now readying to take advantage of the increase in wireless bandwidth and the ability to run several wireless streams simultaneously on the same AP.

11ac Wave 2 offers tremendous opportunities, but it also has challenges. How can you enable 6.8G wireless speeds being promised by 11ac Wave 2 when your wired port is limited to 1G because of Cat 5e cables? Even if you have cables that support faster speeds, how do you deliver PoE to the wireless APs? Can you do all this without expensive rip and replace of your existing cabling plant?

Cisco Catalyst Multigigabit technology allows enterprises to easily prepare their networks for the five-fold increase in wireless bandwidth from 11ac Wave 1 to Wave 2. It addresses the common challenges they will face when upgrading their networks for 802.11ac Wave 2. Here are the highlights:

  • Tremendous cost savings for customers migrating to Wave 2:  Large numbers of today’s access switches are connected to APs with Cat 5e cabling, which is limited to 1Gbps speed. As soon as the traffic from wireless AP reaches the access switch, it will hit a bottleneck. However, based on NBASE-T specifications, our new technology delivers speeds of 1G, 2.5G, 5G, and 10G on existing Cat 5e / 6 cabling. By eliminating the need to upgrade cabling infrastructure, this will result in major cost-savings. In fact, based on feedback from industry experts, the cost savings can run from $200 to $1,000 per port – because that’s the estimated cost of pulling a new cable based on country, complexity of installation, regulatory requirements and other factors.
  • Flexible Network Power: PoE, PoE+ & Cisco UPOE are now delivered to endpoints on Multigigabit ports. You get the flexibility to power Wave 2 APs over your existing cables without changing the cable layout or pulling new electrical circuits in the ceilings or walls.
  • Investment protection:  The technology offers interoperability with existing Catalyst access switches. For example, Catalyst 3850 Multigigabit models can be stacked with existing 1G Copper and 1G Fiber models. Similarly, the Multigigabit line card for Catalyst 4500E works with existing Supervisor Engines 8-E, 7-E and 7-LE.
  • Network wide performance improvement:  To avoid moving the bandwidth bottleneck from the access ports to the backbone, we doubled the 10G density with new higher density line cards on our backbone switches, Catalyst 6800 and 6500-E. The line cards deliver uncompromised network services that have been the hallmark of this product line and can be deployed into the hundreds of thousands of Catalyst 6500-E chassis already running in customer environments.

These innovations from access switches to the backbone expand the possibilities for enterprises to delight users with connected experiences, not break IT budgets, and extend existing investments in their wireless infrastructure into the future.

Learn more here:



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  1. I am about to purchase new 3850 switches. Will this be included or do I need to ask or license the feature? I also have 4500E switches with Sup 7E/7L-E. Is this existing today or how can I add Multigigabit technology to my current 4500E-UPOE switches?

    • Hi Peter,
      We will have 2 new SKUs available for 3850 family (24 and 48 ports), an those will be stackable with the existing 3850. The 48 ports version will be orderable in April. This functionality won’t require any specific license.

      For the 4500E, we will have a new linecard available soon, and you will be able to use it with your Sup7E/7L-E.


  2. Very excited to see this go to market. Nice writeup on the benefits to our customers.

  3. Reading about the advances made with this tech is exciting, but I was wondering if there’s information on what Cisco access point models will support multigigabit speeds? We currently have the 3600 series with the ability to upgrade to 802.11ac and it would be nice to only have to purchase the multigig switch and keep the 3602 WAPs to utlitize the new bandwidth per drop.


    • @Bacon – thanks for your comment & question. We are excited about this technology also! Modular APs like Cisco Aironet 3600 Series can be upgraded to 11ac Wave 1 with the module, and this module is available today. 11ac Wave 2 models that support Multigigabit interfaces will require upgrades to new APs. Thanks, Pradeep

  4. Thanks Jeff for this is its both surprising and exciting news, I was just wondering if you have carried out any independent field testing that provides evidence that 2.5G and 5G speeds can be achieved over a wide range of installed Cat5e cabling with frame error rates within acceptable standards?

    BTW I have started a discussion about this on LinkedIn if you would like to contribute?



    • Hi Mark,

      We have validated these speeds through internal Cisco testing. We are working with cable manufacturers, customers, industry groups such as IEEE & others to define use cases that would be appropriate for independent 3rd party testing.

      Pradeep Parmar

  5. From the NBASE-T website:

    “The NBASE-T solution can also then switch to the IEEE standard 10GBASE-T mode, given sufficient bandwidth such as the presence of data center-class Cat 6A cables.”

    10GBASE-T will not run 100 meters over CAT 5e or CAT 6 cable.

  6. Thanks Jeff for the exciting news! Just to share with everyone, there is a follow up panel discussion on multigigabit switching and NBASE-T Alliance at Cisco Live Milan on Thursday, Jan 29, 2015, 14:30 – 16:00. A great opportunity to learn more in this area.

  7. Very Good product. it will be good for WLAN or smallcell

  8. Very excited to see this go to market. Nice writeup on the benefits to our customers.